Sirens. This is the sound I hear the most. The streets are now dead but the sirens are constant and unrelenting, their monopoly only interrupted by the church bells which ring every hour.
If you have read my previous posts*, you know how quickly the story has changed and evolved. Today, it looks like the trend seems to be slowing down. New infections are slowing, as are the number of deaths. The collective exhale is palpable.
There is still confusion – there was a decree (quickly withdrawn in Lombardy) that allowed parents to walk outside with little children. Like so many, we watched aghast. This was quickly clarified in its limitations, but confusion still lingers.
And by now many of us know people who have died because of the coronavirus. They died alone, without any loved ones around, with no one to send them off, as funerals are now not allowed.
There are lots of words to describe how we are feeling: scared, exhausted, worried, fragile, angry, overwhelmed. But loss underlies everything. We have lost people in our community and continue to do so, we have lost our old life and don’t know if it will ever come back, we are losing businesses, many of which were family owned, we are losing life milestones because of cancelled graduations, weddings, births, funerals. Many have lost dreams, the careers they were to start. Each one of us has our own stories of loss.
And as many larger-than-life tragedies, the poor and the weak are hit disproportionately. The homeless, the refugees, the huge cadre of service and hourly wage workers who are now struggling to pay the rent, for food, utilities. As this virus spreads around the world, I just cannot get my head around the magnitude of suffering for people who live on the streets, work for nothing and for whom we have no real solution.
For those of you reading this from the US, I feel for you. It’s going to be tough; it’s going to be supremely difficult. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. A week ago, in Italy, we didn’t see any light. Now we are starting to see signs of a distant glimmer.
We also now have some data. At first, many weren’t sure if we could trust the numbers out of China, now we understand how this curve is fairly standard, and how it takes shape with vs. without interventions. We know what works. (Stay at home, people!). And regardless of how accurate China’s numbers really are, the truth of the matter is that they now have people are starting to walk around, albeit with a mask, but out and about.
Here in Italy, we are also starting to see some recovery. We see news of people in their 80s getting better, of a 101-year-old that recovered.
So yes, we’ve lost a lot and we need to really absorb the loss and fear and uncertainty. Cocoon. Do whatever it takes to process the avalanche of feelings. For me, what I needed changed over the weeks.
But here’s the thing: if our heads stay steeped only in the loss, we will never be able to move forward. One day, we will start stepping out into a new world. And we need to begin, now, to prepare mentally, physically and practically for all the hard work rebuilding will take. I know, first-hand, how easily emotions can overwhelm us. But I also know that we can either let the loss consume us or use it to fuel our own regeneration.
I heard someone say: in times of crisis it’s not all about HOW you are, but WHO you are.
So, I keep asking myself: Who am I in this situation? Who do I want to be?
When I look back one day, I want remember being centered, compassionate, kind, humorous (OK, that one will be more difficult for me ). I want to have shown up for my people and the people who need me. I want to have helped reflect, ground, stabilize and, when the time comes, ready to build again.
*This is the 4th segment of my blog on life in coronavirus times. To read the first three installments, go to rosecartolari.com